North·Audio

Whitehorse Women’s Hockey League embraces transgender males

Chase Blodgett says the potential to lose his hockey community was a major source of stress during his gradual coming out as a transgender male. A new league policy that welcomes any player who was born or identifies as a woman has made it easier.

'It was kind of a vulnerable process to come out to my team,' Chase Blodgett says

Chase Blodgett says the potential to lose his hockey community was a major source of stress during his gradual coming out as a transgender male. A new league policy that welcomes any player who was born or identifies as a woman has made it easier. (Submitted by Chase Blodgett)

Chase Blodgett says the potential to lose his hockey community was a major source of stress during his gradual coming out as a transgender male.

“It was kind of a vulnerable process to come out to my team,” says the 29-year-old, who came out to his family this summer, then to his wider group of friends on Facebook in the fall.

The Whitehorse Women’s Hockey League has made it slightly easier with a new policy that says it welcomes any player who was born or identifies as a woman.

  • AUDIO: Scroll down to hear Chase Blodgett and Michelle Rabeau in conversation with CBC North's Dave White
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A team picker — someone who selects players for teams — Blodgett says he was doing his preamble before a game, handing out jerseys, when he delivered the news.

“I kind of stopped and just said to my team, ‘Well, OK, there’s something that I should be open and honest with you guys about and that’s that I’m in the process of gender transitioning from female to male and I use male pronouns and I would appreciate it if you guys would honour that.’ And the dressing room was just totally quiet.”

Blodgett says he looked up and saw his barber, with a huge grin, nodding.

“So I just said, 'OK, you guys wanna make lines?' We made lines and went out and skated and a couple of weeks later, the team voted me in as captain.”

Dressing room for changing, drinking beer

“It wasn’t controversial. It just seemed like the right thing to do,” says Michelle Rabeau, who’s with the league, of the new policy.

Blodgett says there’s something special about the WWHA community that’s hard to understand if you’re not part of it. (Submitted by Chase Blodgett)
“We’re a women’s league and we want to make sure that we’re keeping the spirit of that, so it’s more about changing how we define what woman means and I think we did that well.”

The policy is straightforward: anyone who was born or identifies as a woman is welcome. That includes women that identify as male or males that identify as female.

“This does not mean a person who was born a man, who lives their life as a man and who says, “I’m a woman” on their registration form, for no other reason, than to play with us,” reads the FAQ. “Also we don’t think this scenario would ever occur.”

The policy also downplays any physical advantage that could be achieved by a transgender female. “We are not the kind of competitive league where this would be an issue,” it says. “If any player is dangerous on the ice, we will address their individual behaviour — regardless of their gender identity.”

As for changing rooms, the league says it will deal with issues as they arise, but it’s not central.

“The change room is for changing, drinking beer and talking shit about the other teams,” the FAQ reads.

Rabeau says she’s been told the policy is progressive, but she doesn’t look at it that way.

“It feels like it should be commonplace for any kind of sports club, and if it’s not, we hope that others follow suit.”

Dynamic league

Blodgett says he’s done some research and couldn’t find any adult recreational leagues in the country with a similar policy. “Frequently the policies that are set are to allow someone like me to play as a male.”

The Whitehorse Women’s Hockey League is described as one of the most dynamic recreational sports leagues in the city.

Blodgett says there’s something special about the WWHA community that’s hard to understand if you’re not part of it, and it’s not all about gender.

“This is my first season playing net, so I think the team was more worried about whether or not I could actually stop the puck than my gender identity.”

  • On mobile? Hear Chase Blodgett and Michelle Rabeau in conversation with CBC North's Dave White

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